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Westlands Water District Masquerades as “Tea Party”; One of Largest “Corporate Welfare” Recipients Fears Being Exposed by “Over Troubled Waters” Film

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546 [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft;
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Westlands Water District Masquerades as “Tea Party”;
One of Largest “Corporate Welfare” Recipients Fears Being Exposed by “Over Troubled Waters” Film

Stockton, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and business owners dedicated to a fair water policy, today exposed the effort by the Westlands Water District, one of the largest beneficiaries of taxpayer subsidies, for masquerading as the “Central Valley Tea Party” to instigate opposition to RTD’s film documenting the public subsidies of water for huge, unsustainable corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. “It is hilarious that Westlands – huge growers who receive millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize their unsustainable practices,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, “wants to hide behind anti-tax groups. What utter hypocrisy.”

The Westlands Water District sent out an appeal as the “Central Valley Tea Party” to promote opposition to the screening of the film Thursday evening at Fresno City College. The screening is free to the public and provides a unique examination of who benefits from today’s water politics. A panel discussion will follow the screening in which audience members will be able to present questions to the panel.

Westlands Water District is a principal promoter of the proposed Peripheral tunnels that would destroy sustainable farming in the Delta, the health of the Bay-Delta estuary, and coastal fisheries. Westlands growers, which contribute only .3% to the state’s annual GDP, see this project as a way to transform their junior water rights into permanent water guarantees at the expense of California’s water rate payers and tax payers. Westlands growers disregard the importance of the Delta’s $5 billion a year agriculture economy; the Delta’s $650,000,000 recreational economy, and the $2 billion a year coastal salmon fishing economy – a total economy that supports millions of Californians, not a handful of large corporate farms.

Attached please find the Westlands Water District (ooops, I mean Central Valley Tea Party) attack on RTD and Over Troubled Waters.

Click here for PDF

Below please find RTD’s response to earlier misinformed statements by Westlands.

In case you missed it…

Another View: Westlands’ farm practices harm Delta

By Deirdre Des Jardins and Jane Wagner-Tyack
Special to The Bee
Published: Saturday, May. 12, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 10A

Deirdre Des Jardins, a researcher with California Water Research Associates, and Jane Wagner-Tyack, a policy analyst with Restore the Delta, are responding to the May 8 Viewpoints column, “Legislation would restore water, balance to west-side Valley farmers.”

That column, written by Thomas W. Birmingham of the Westlands Water District, stated that “Farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley do not want to steal anyone’s water. They merely want to regain access to the water in a full Shasta Reservoir that they are paying for.”

Birmingham asks whether we are going to sustain irrigated agriculture on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The irrigated agriculture he wants to sustain is a particularly thirsty kind, and he wants to do it by ensuring an unsustainable level of federal Central Valley Project (CVP) water exports, at an unsustainable cost to taxpayers.

Westlands Water District is part of the last area of the San Joaquin Valley to get contracts for water from the Delta, so it is the first to have deliveries reduced in dry years.
Research shows that actual CVP deliveries to Westlands have always been variable, reflecting the fact that its contracts are for surplus water. Shasta Lake may be full, but there are carryover storage needs and senior water rights holders in line ahead of Westlands for water deliveries.

Trying to grow thirsty crops like cotton in what is essentially desert has severely degraded west-side soil. Westlands has a known problem with lack of drainage and accumulation of salts in the soil that has led to the retirement of over 100,000 acres in the district and will cause another 100,000 acres to go out of production in the next two decades.

Meanwhile, taxpayers have been paying huge crop subsidies for Westlands to grow cotton. Taxpayers also pay for crop insurance and disaster payments when the inevitable drought hits. Subsidies for the cost of water and the electricity needed to transport it long distances encourage wasteful uses, such as flood-irrigating alfalfa fields or using water to “plump” garlic bulbs prior to harvest.
Given the variable water supply and the lack of supplemental local supplies or decent groundwater on the west side, it has been a bad business decision for Westlands growers to plant 110,000 acres of permanent crops such as almonds.

These crops take the entire allocation for the district in dry or below-normal years. The economic pain being suffered by people on the west side results from decades of decisions by absentee landowners to maximize profits over sustainability.

It’s not in the interests of the state to sacrifice prime Delta farmland, the Delta ecosystem, or the West Coast salmon fishing industry so farmers on the west side can continue to grow crops unsuited to the climate, soil or water supply.

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